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All Children and Youth Thrive!

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets manager

Children are often viewed in society as something to be tolerated, reined in, or hovered over. Perhaps, there are some things that we need to learn – things that only they can teach us.

The United Nations has designated November 20th as National Child Day. This day is an opportunity to reflect on how we can advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights to make the world a better place for children.

In Halton, we believe that all children are competent, capable, curious, creative and rich in potential and experience. They deserve our respect and our openness to hearing their voice in all matters that affect them. When we refocus our view of children from “problems to be fixed” to people of vast strength and potential – our experience changes, and our relationships with them deepen.*

Everyone can play a role in bettering the lives of children. In fact, one of the rights that children have is that all adults should do what is best for children, and that when adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.

I recall a party that I hosted for my daughter’s 7th birthday. I was hoping for a sunny day as it was a pool party in the back yard and 10 girls were coming. I had 2 tables set up for them – one was a big, beautiful picnic table close to the pool and the other one was an old fold-out card table which, in my rush, I left up on the back deck. Not thinking about how this set-up would affect seating, I continued with the party. When I asked them to come for lunch, I was horrified to find 9 girls squished onto the picnic table and one little girl sitting all alone at the card table on the back deck. It didn’t occur to me that I had set up an environment where it was possible that someone didn’t fit. It was like a dark cloud had covered the sky. We quickly moved the card table beside the picnic table and covered the whole thing with a table cloth so it looked like one big table. The 10th girl joined the group and it was a sunny day again!

It seems like such a small thing to think about but what a big difference it made to one little girl. Ten years later, she thanked me for moving that table. I had forgotten about it, but she hadn’t.

So, it isn’t just about what we give children or how we view them that is important, but also how we set up the spaces where they grow and learn to become caring supportive adults. It’s also important to consider how we, as adults, have the power to control the “weather”. Will it be a sunny day where you are, or a dark and cloudy one?

By observing children and reflecting on our own behavior, instead of judging and tolerating them, we can create a space for relationships to thrive.

For more information about the UN Convention on the Right of the Child, visit www.unicef.org/crc

For more information about Developmental Relationships, visit www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Relationships-Matter

*How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014